Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Homily for 24 Jun 2015

24 Jun 2015
Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

We celebrate today not just the birth of saint, but the birth of a new way of thinking for the people of God.  And it was a hard birth for the people to accept.

John the Baptist came to “prepare the way” of the Lord.  He preached a baptism of repentance.  And in doing that he was effectively saying, “Stop looking to the past for your fulfillment; look to God and look ahead.”  The prophet Isaiah speaks of this when he writes: “It is too little . . . for you to be my servant, . . . to restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

The Messiah didn’t come to restore Israel, to restore it to its former glory.  The Messiah came to make something new that would go way beyond Israel.  And John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Lord by getting people onto a new track of thinking.  And that’s what repentance is—a new way of thinking, making a change that looks forward, a change that isn’t restoration but which is real growth.

When people leave the confessional, hopefully they’re not interested in going back to where they were before.  Hopefully, their repentance is geared toward a new way of living—even if it’s in little ways.  It isn’t enough to sin, to be forgiven, and then to return to our sins.  John the Baptist says, “No, with repentance something new and of a wider vision comes to be.”  And that something new is our life in Christ.

But this isn’t just limited to the idea of sin and repentance.  John the Baptist is a sign of a break in the cycle that keeps us locked in our will and, instead, gets us more focused on God’s will.  As we know, John’s father, Zechariah, doubted God and so he was made to be mute.  And the family was insistent that the newborn baby be named “Zechariah” after his father; it was part of the tradition.  But God had other plans.

And when Zechariah and the family let God’s will be done, as we know, Zechariah could speak again and John the Baptist came to birth.  There was a break with tradition; there was a break with the human will and a renewed commitment to the will of God.  John helped to begin the process of getting people to think in a new way—in preparing for the Messiah who was to be the Way.

According to the human will, so often the “glory days” are in the past.  That was the case for ancient Israel; they were interested in restoration, not something new.  And sometimes that can be the case in today’s Church as well.  Every now and then we might look to the past and say, “If only it could be like that again.  Remember when Fr. so-and-so was here; remember how we used to do this or that as a parish.” 

There’s something good about happy memories of the ways things used to be.  And so, we can sympathize with our ancestors of ancient Israel.  And yet, John the Baptist says, “Look ahead.  Something new is coming.”  And he’s right, of course.  Life never stands still; life is always moving ahead—or, rather, God’s will is always moving us ahead, moving us into a continual renewal of life . . . if we’re willing to let go and let God take the reins.    

There may have been something truly glorious about the past.  And it can be hard to see the past fade into memory.  But perhaps it’s easier to accept when we hear and heed the message of John the Baptist: “The glory days are ahead.  The real glory days are ahead.  So, prepare the way for God’s will to be done.  Our glory lies ahead, when God’s will is done." 

And so, we pray sincerely: Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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